Pages 18 - 19

Wrington Village Records
Studies of the history of a Somerset Village

Manorial accounts, 1343-4 and 1491-2
Pages 18 - 19

Source: Xerox copies of original MSS. at Bristol Records Office, Ref: AC/MIO/5 & 14.

The account rolls of Wrington for 1343-4 and 1491-2 are in the usual form of a long roll made up of pieces of vellum sewn together. The stitches joining the pieces together could easily be seen in the Xerox copies. Both have elaborate, ornate lettering at the head of the front of each roll. They are dated in each case by the year of office of the current Abbot of Glastonbury: the earlier one being "the first year of Abbot WaIter de Monyngton" (1343) and the later one "the 35th year of Lord John Selwood, Abbot" (1491). Each account is for one year from the Feast of St. Michael (29th September).


Each account was probably dictated by the reeve (the official, usually a local villager, in charge of agricultural routine on the manor) using tallies as an "aide memoire", to a professional scribe-in this instance, probably a monk from Glastonbury, since the standard of writing is very high. Each entry is in Latin, while the figures, not in columns but placed at random in the text, are all in Roman numerals.

Such accounts were made by the reeve for the inspection of the bailiff (professional "estate manager" and chief resident official of the manor). The account, when drawn up, was examined by auditors who compared it with last year's account, and with those of other estates; made corrections, crossed out any items or figures which they thought unreasonable or incorrect, and altered them to what they thought they should have been, before adding up and entering the totals in the spaces left for them. Each account was, therefore, more a "state of affairs" than an accurate profit and loss account. The reeve and bailiff were expected to pay any profits over to Glastonbury, but to meet any losses themselves.

The account for 1491 has an entry recording something of this process : "Item to the new reeve and the son of William Triwbody, 3s. 4d., to each of them 20d. Given to the External Cellarer and the auditors of the account, 4 clerks, 13s. 4d., to each of them 3s. 4d. And to Henry Edwards, servant to the said Cellarer, 6s. 8d."

Each roll follows a set layout, with the front giving the name of the manor, date, officials, arrears of rent, etc., from last year, and then the cash income and expenditure during the year. The back of each roll comprises a full list of stock and produce of the manor, noting changes and yields over the year; with an inventory of live and dead stock on the lord's demesne, much of which can be cross-referenced to the corresponding cash values given on the front of the roll. The rolls are each about seven feet long.

It will be seen that these manorial accounts are complicated documents to handle: particularly as the original handwriting and Latin - often abbreviated almost to shorthand - had first to be reduced to a coherent English text. This in fact formed the major part of the project. Nonetheless, the value of the accounts becomes clear when the reeve's concern for his pocket is carried to fractions of a penny, to the last piglet, or the final egg paid in as church-scot. Where the 1238 Custumal aimed to lay down the rights and duties of tenants as a precedent for all time, these accounts record the actual ups and downs of a year on the manor. It is these details of life and work which have been studied on this occasion, rather than the purely financial aspect of the accounts.


The main fact which emerges from the 1343-4 account is that at this time Wrington is an integral part of the internal economy of Glastonbury Abbey. It is, in fact, very little more independent than during the time of the Custumal of 1238. Payments and donations are still made in kind to the Lardarium. Some of these are rather amusing: "Item received 300 eggs as the rent of the Hayward of Wrington to Easter. ...And accounted for by grant to the Lardarium of Glastonbury, 300 eggs by tally," - a somewhat difficult commodity to transport, one would imagine, under the conditions of the day.

This is the first year of a new Abbot, Walter de Monyngton, and he came on a visit which lasted two weeks and caused such a bustle and stir, and had such far-reaching effects on the life of the Manor during the year, that a detailed analysis has been made of it.

There are, however, several other references to the hospitality extended to various officials from the Abbey passing through on business; for example, "For feeding one horse of the Cellarer when he came to the hall here on diverse occasions, going to Bristol to seek fish there, 4 bushels by tally (drawn) on John Sampson". Oats were the food on this occasion. Careful accounts were kept of the cost of these visits, and we find that John Seene stayed for two nights at a cost of 5s. 1½d. ; John de Sand hull and Robert de Wotton, one night, 18d. ; Reginald Leygrane and his friend, 16d. ; and John de Cant, 9d.

Many of the duties in the Park at Pilton and the vineyard at Panborough were still performed. (Compare the paper Customs of the Manor, 1238). However, it is of note that payments to avoid these and other duties have now reached very large proportions: 466 carriage duties are "sold" for a total of 38s. 1Od. ; 85 food allowances at 3d. each, total 21s. 3d. Harvest boonworks for "38½ acres and 1/3 part of an acre and two parts of a perch" at 4d. an acre, brought in 13s. Od. 48 workdays in binding sheaves "sold" at ½d. per day: 2s.

Many individuals paid to get out of part of their services: "And 6s. 10d. of John Matheu and Isabel his wife, holding half a virgate of land, in lieu of the services attached to the same tenure (except sowing, lifting the hay, ploughing half an acre which he shall plough every year, and saving their own personal service of fencing in the garden and the Park at Pilton, and except digging in the vineyard at Panborough, and except 12 cartage duties which they shall perform annually) to the end of both their lives, payable at the 4 quarters".

With so many exceptions, one wonders from what duties they had paid to escape!

Manorial duties were carried out as before; but by now there are payments being made in cash for work done over and above the normal. The agricultural routine of the manor was organised by the Reeve. The Bailiff was in overall charge of the manor, and probably lived at the Manor house for his term of office. There was also a "Custodian of the House". The Seneschal and Cellarer , who also appear, were important Glastonbury officials responsible respectively for the estate management, and the maintenance of manorial buildings, on all the Glastonbury properties. The other officials mentioned in the roll are purely manorial, and would all have been local, non-professional villagers: two Reap Reeves (appointed temporarily to help see to the harvest), the Aleconner, the Swineherd, the Beadle, the Marshwarden who looked after river and rhine embankments and flood precautions, the Hayward and the Granger.

There are also details of various jobs performed by the Smith, Carpenters, Herdsmen, Shepherd, Drovers, and the "man who keeps the cows". Some of these posts seem to have had an annual stipend - not so much a "living wage", as a cash supplement to compensate, probably, for land to which they would otherwise have been entitled but which these jobs left them no time to cultivate. For example: the herdsmen received 4s. 6d. p.a., the shepherd the same; the hayward had 6s. 8d. p.a., and the cow-keeper 2s. for six months from Hocktide to Michaelmas. The Reap Reeves were paid 1s. 6d. plus 1½d. a day expenses; but it cost 1d. a day to buy yourself out of this particular job.

A detailed analysjs has been included of the carpenters' work, for they were paid at piecework rates for specific jobs which were out of the ordinary run. In this case the "stipend" seems to be the price for the job, as opposed to the "expenses" of materials, etc. The alterations and erasures in the first entry are those of the disapproving auditors.

"In making 3 2 new ploughs from the lord's timber, as piecework, 9d. 6d.

For the stipend of one carpenter dismantling 7 pierced yokes and
repairing the said 7 yokes with the lord's wood, as piecework, 3½d.

For the stipend of one carpenter making from the lord's timber 2 new
dyngpotts as piecework, 6d.

For the stipend of one carpenter for felling a tree, ( ? chopping) it, and sawing the same timber for the aforesaid 2 dyngpotts as piecework, 6d.

For the stipend of the same, for putting new axles on 1 cart, 1½d.

For 9 planks purchased, 12d. ; of which 4 for 6d., and 3 for 4d., and 2 for 2d.

For the stipend of three carpenters making from them and from other planks of the lord's, 6 window shutters, before Lord Abbot was there, for 2 days, 10d. ; of which each of them took on the first day 2½d., and on the second day 1d., with drink.

For a key purchased for the same, 1½d.

For 12 hinge-hooks and the same number of hinges purchased for
hanging the aforesaid shutters, 9d.

(Note: these terms, Latin, gumphus and vertinellus, are difficult to translate, but in fact describe very clearly a simple two-piece hinge; a rod bent into a right-angled hook (the gumphus) which dropped into a ring fixed onto the door or window jamb (the vertinellus).)

For purchasing 1 plank, 1½d.

For the stipend of one carpenter putting the said plank in the gate of the oxhouse, 1½d.

For a key purchased for same, ½d.

For 1 hinge-hook and 1 hinge purchased for hanging the aforesaid gate, 1½d.

For the purchase of 1 elm board 20 feet long, 1½d.

For the stipend of two carpenters making from the same and from other of the lord's timber 1 manger (or stall ?) for the Lord Abbot's stable, for 1 day, 5d. ; each of them took for the day, 2½d. "

Mention is made of people paying to avoid being aleconner (6d.), beadle (6d), and swineherd (6d.) - in each case for the duration of their lives. Reversion "fines" - or fees - were paid to ensure succession either to a parent, or upon
marriage, under the normal terms of villeinage. These are quite heavy, variously 40s., 100s., £6, £4, 33s. 4d., 66s. 8d., 10s. (for one pasture, only), £4 13s. 4d., 26s. 8d. Paid once in a lifetime only: but add to these the amounts paid for relief from manorial duties and village offices, and the people must have been
prosperous, as these are not small sums.

Some land was held as "Gavelond" (land for which cash rent was paid): usually lands recently brought into cultivation, as opposed to the older cultivated open fields, and so not incorporated into the older system of services. And an item appearing as "Overland" was literally that: the tenant having died and the land, being left without an heir or successor, had reverted to the lord of the manor.

The remaining dues payable by the villagers were hearthpenny, church-scot, woodcherlscorn (this is the "woodcutter's custom" of the paper Customs of the Manor, 1238). Peter's Pence (3s. 8d.), and the various "gifts" to the Lardarium (for details of all these, see Customs of the Manor, 1238); with fees for "pannage of pigs", tolsester dues (see paper The Manor and the Manor House); and the "communal fine". Internal transactions were made by tally, and some-times "by tally with cash".

The visit of the Lord Abbot was the dominating factor in the year 1343. It has already been noted that the carpenters were busy on improvements to the house and outbuildings. There is also a note that "10 acres were manured, 2 acres were marled, and brushwood cleared for 1 week before the arrival of the lord this year". Sixteen lamps "for lighting the great chamber and for the chamber over the gate" were purchased for 8d. (compare The Manor and the Manor House). During his stay the stores issued "by tally with cash" were: 9 quarters, 7 bushels of corn; 4 bushels of beans; 3 quarters and 3½ bushels of oats for the horses; 5 calves, 7 geese, 3 capons, and 1 tun ( !) of cider. The cash cost of the visit is given as £6 6s. 7d., by tally. This, however, is not the end: for there is a note of the lack of pasturage afterwards: "For pasturage in the Great Garden, nothing, because the whole was mown for the horses of Lord Abbot,
staying there for two weeks soon after the feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist this year" and also "From the sale of hay nothing, because the whole of the lord's meadow was mown in demesne to feed the lord's cattle this year"-perhaps in compensation for the loss of pasture first quoted.

The tally system is also used in livestock transactions. Animals are grouped by age as well as, where appropriate, by sex, and changes are recorded in great detail. This abstract of the stock account shows the changes in livestock over the year, the shifting of animals into their next higher age-grouping, and also how much movement of animals there was between Wrington and the other Glastonbury manors. A balance for each group of animals is struck, exactly as if they were cash-in-hand; and a clue to their value is sometimes given.

Draught-horses. Item,

4 male draught-horses brought forward (from last year).
Whence 2 granted by tally to the Reeve of Godney.2 granted by tally to the Cellarer of the Hall at Glastonbury, for the horse-mill.
Total: 4. And none remain.

Young (horses). Item, 6 young horses brought forward.
Whence 2 granted by tally to the Reeve of Pilton.
3 granted by tally to the Reeve of Godney-on the same tally as the draught-horses.
Total: 5. And one young horse remains.

Foals. Item,  1 male foal brought forward. And 1 male foal granted to the Reeve of Godney by above tally also.
Total: 1. And none remain.

Bulls. Item,   received by tally 1 bull, from the Reeve of Meare. And 1 bull remains.

Oxen. Item,   17 oxen brought forward from last year . 1 ox received as heriot of Alice Batecock. 1 ox received as heriot of Walter Hugun. 1 from the lower age-group.
Total (in hand) 20.

Whence 2 granted by tally to the Reeve of Sowy.
Total: 2. And 18 oxen remain.

Cows. Item,  5 cows brought forward.
1 cow received before calving, from the Reeve of Godney.
6 cows from the lower age group.
Total 12.

Whence 2 granted at Michaelmas to the Lardarium at Glastonbury.
Total: 2. And 10 cows remain.

The above preserves something of the original layout of the stock account. It continues with the class called "Bullocks" - which turns out to include heifers as well: 8 "bullocks" "of which two are male", including one young bull (a stud animal ?), brought forward from last year; the young bull is sold (8s. 8d.), 6 move up into the cow-group, and one into the draught-oxen, as already shown ; so none remain in this group. The next age-group is the calves: 11 brought forward "born of as many cows this year and no more for that one of the younger cows did not calve" (i.e., 11 out of the 12 cows noted above), of which 1 was paid to the church as tithe, 5 became veal for my Lord Abbot's visit, leaving 5 calves in hand "of which 4 are male".

The pigs come next, divided into a hierarchy of ages. First are the 18 pigs from last year, "of which one is the boar", to which are added 8 from the next lower age-group : total 26; of these 14 are granted to the Lardarium at Glastonbury, leaving 12 including the boar. 2 sows are brought forward from last year, and are "in hand" with no change. Next come the "hoggs"; 8 brought forward from last year have all been moved up and counted in with the pigs above; while there are in hand 13 "hoggs which were hoggetts last year". Then come this year's "hoggetts" (now a sheep, then a pig: we wonder when this change took place ?) : "received 7 hoggetts remaining as piglets from last year; total 7; and there remain 7 hoggetts". Finally, the piglets :

"Item received 7 piglets born of one sow in the month of February. And 6 piglets born of one sow in the month of April. And 16 piglets born of 2 sows in the month of September.

Total 27.
Whence in tithe, 3. Died. 2 of the last litter. Total 5.
    And there remain 22 hoggetts and piglets".

Presumably the piglets of the first litters had reached hoggett age when the account was drawn up.

The sheep form a complex group. 162 were brought forward from last year. Some more came from the Reeve of Batecombe; some died before and some after shearing, some were sold, and there were a mysterious 11 sheep "deficient" -"For which 11 sheep the Reeve is answerable". Ultimately, 219 sheep were shorn, yielding "20 stones and a half and 1 lb., with broken wool"; and 190 remained in hand, at the time of the account.

The remaining livestock on the demesne, comprised geese: 2 pairs, 4 more purchased, and 20 goslings; capons - which rather like the "bullocks" seem to include pullets - of which some were bought for 1d. each, and some sold for 3d. each. Hens follow, 120 being acquired in payment of Churchscot, and all disposed of in various ways. Pullets: 40 are purchased and are accounted for by "being fattened for eating with the capons, above". Lastly, the heading "Doves", but no entry. The dovecot is rented out.

Wool yields count as part of the stock-and-crop account, and are divided into fleeces, wool fells (skin plus fleece), shorn skins, leather, and broken wool or wool-locks. A little was sold, for 8s. 2½d., but most was despatched to Brother John de Cary, Cellarer of Glastonbury. Sundry other items included wax, eggs, cider, linseed and flax, cheese, butter, malt, offals of oxen, pigs and sheep. A summary of "dead stock" includes some of the furniture in the hall : 2 table-boards with 8 pairs of trestles; 2 tables; 1 "dresser" ; a screen, a basin, and various cooking and brewing vessels; 5 benches; and tools probably kept around the manor house, ranging from carts down to "4 iron spades. ..2 iron cross-hoes. ..and 1 straw seed-basket". All this stock and equipment was that on the lord's demesne. The villagers' own stock and equipment was not accountable.

The growing of the arable crops was also highly organised. Detailed accounts are kept of the kind of crop, where each was sown, how much was sown, and the yield. The crops are divided into wheat, chaff (not just husks, but the lowest grade of - just - edible wheat "sweepings"), "brotcorn" (? rye), barley, oats and "lesser oats" - probably the equivalent of wheat chaff. These crops were released by tally for various purposes: "mixed grain granted to the servants"; "1 bushel of barley in keeping apart and feeding 5 pigs in winter"; "for feeding the horses of the Seneschal and Cellarer for the tourns held at Michaelmas and Hock quarters". The tourns were the courts held at the Manor House. An enormous amount goes, at the end of the year, to the granary at Glastonbury, and allowances are also made to the Hayward, two drovers, and the shepherd. Only 4s. 10d. worth is actually sold for cash.

One further section which merits a note is that devoted to the mill. This is held on a lease from the lord of the manor, by the villagers, for a rent of £8 p.a. It would seem to have been sub-let by, or worked for, them so that they had control of it and were not at the mercy of a "lord's miller" who could virtually charge them what he liked for his services.

In conclusion, at the time of this manorial account, Edward III was on the throne and the Hundred Years' War was in progress. The Black Death, which is reputed to have radically changed the manorial system, was still four years in the future; and the villeins of the manor of Wrington seemed to be enjoying a fairly high standard of living for their time.


There had obviously been a great crisis in the administration of Wrington in 1491, as an entry (which was crossed out by the auditors) read: "Stephen Hanam late reeve £4 6s. 8d. received above, of Thomas Gillyng late bailiff there, for 52 sheep in all deficient of the same Thomas, and 'sold upon account', the price per head 20d., received" : which tangled allusion to deficiencies and fictitious sales to straighten out the account, is followed by the insertion "And the above William Triwbody, Bailiff and now holding the office of Reeve.'

Exactly what happened we shall probably never know, but it appears that the late reeve and bailiff had hastily disappeared from office, to be replaced by William Triwbody (the miller at Beam Bridge: see paper The Manor and the Manor House) acting in both capacities for the year. The account for 1491-2 is much shorter and less detailed than that of 1343-4, perhaps because of this administrative tangle. It is altogether a simpler document.

There is no mention of the vineyard at Panborough or the deer park at Pilton. Payments to the Lardarium are smaller; dues are still paid in kind, but a greater number are in cash. There are no references to the brethren from Glastonbury passing through or staying a night, except for one entry "For the expenses of the Seneschal, the External Cellarer, the Clerks and others being there for 2 hundred and leet courts, and 4 hallmoot courts, held this year, 63s. 2d. by 4 tallies".

A limited comparison can be made concerning the rise in prices. Annual wages have gone up. In 1491 it cost 10s. p.a., for the Hayward, compared with 6s. 8d. in 1343. In 1343 it cost 6d. to fell a tree and saw it up into planks, whereas in 1491 it cost 6d. "for hiring one man to pull down one broken tree in Blake-more, 8d. for carting the said tree to the court; for cleaving and stripping the
same and carrying it to the kitchen, 6d." Further on there is a now familiar glimpse of how labour costs make even a simple job rise in price :

"For throwing down and turning ( ? sic) one broken tree at Bylme', 16d. For food bought for the men doing it, 8d. For carting the same tree to the Hall, 6d. Item for food bought for the said carters of the tree 6d. For sawing the said tree into planks, as piecework, 11s. For carrying the said planks into the Court, 3d." But the bitter blow for the managerial class comes in the next line, "For supervising everything aforesaid, 1d."

As in the earlier account there are certain items listed as piecework: for cutting furze, 4d.; carting the said furze to Sheppenhay, 6d. (probably bracken for litter in the sheep pens); making a stile, 2d. ; hooks and hinges for the sheep-fold gate, 4½d., and a key for it ½d. And there is an entry "for cleaning out the lord's stable, twice this year, 9d."-which seems a truly Herculean task! A few prices of animals and materials are offered for comparison :

1343                                                 1491
Raw wool, per stone 4s. 8d.             9s. 0d
Corn, 1 bushel               6d.                  7d
Sheep, 1                       10d.        1s. to 1s 8d
Hen, 1                         1½d                  2d

Occupations in the village seem much the same, with the tending of sheep predominating. Sheep are driven from Benanger or Bevanger, and from Glastonbury, to Wrington. The lord's shepherd with two other men drive sheep from Wrington to Mendip; and one man drives sheep from Mendip to Glaston-bury. The shepherd gets 26s. Sd. a year as his stipend, and a bonus of 3s. 4d. "for taking charge of the lord's sheep for a time at Munydepe". Many repairs are made to the sheepfold; hurdles, tar and grease are purchased, and "For one bell purchased for the sheep called Belwether, 2d."

As nowadays, there is evidence of some expansion of the village, particularly near the church! One entry reads "Item, 20d. of increased rent from William son of Richard Gornay for a certain house newly built, together with the garden adjoining, within the outer court of the lord next to the churchyard of the parish church there". Also, an allowance of 30s. "to the Bailiff and the Hayward for that they sufficiently and newly built one tenement in the village there".
John Wastell paid a "new rent" of 2d. for a garden within the manor, on the south side of the demesne grange, while John Roe paid a rent of 12d. "so that he can work the moor outside his tenement". On the other hand there was "Pardoned by the lord to Thomas Aleyn of his rent, for that his tenement has been burnt down by misfortune of fire, 16s. by a letter from the Lord".

This, then, is a sidelight on Wrington in the year in which Henry VII was on the throne, Perkin Warbeck was in the southwest claiming his "royal inheritance" -and Columbus reached the West Indies.